"He was the central figure in an
elaborate kickback scheme"
[PoliticsWatch Updated 3:00 p.m. November 1, 2005]
|Chretien pal and sponsorship subcontractor
Jacques Corriveau billed for work at non-existent Olympic
Stadiums across Quebec.
OTTAWA — Jacques Corriveau, a man said to be a close personal friend of former prime minister Jean Chretien, was named "the central figure" in the sponsorship scandal in Justice John Gomery's fact finding report released Tuesday.
"He was the central figure in an elaborate kickback scheme by which he enriched himself personally and provided funds and benefits to the (Quebec Liberal party)," Gomery wrote in his report.
While hardly mentioned during the House of Commons public accounts committee investigation of Adscam, Corriveau's name kept popping up repeatedly during the sensational Montreal phase of the Gomery inquiry.
Before he made his appearance, the inquiry had already heard from former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano that the Liberal party owed him "considerable sums of money" for work his firm, Pluri Design, did on the 1997 federal election campaign.
Pluri Design earned a total of $11 million over a 10-year period beginning in 1993 as a result of the sponsorship program. From 1995 to 2004, Corriveau himself earned $4.4 million according to documents tabled at the inquiry.
But much of that work was questioned by other witnesses.
Jean Brault, head of Groupaction, said he paid out over $495,475 in fake invoices to Pluri Design.
"All the invoices that you will see from Pluri Design to Groupaction or its subsidiaries represent work or services which were not rendered but were paid for," he said, adding that he wasn't even aware of exactly what work kind of work Pluri Design did.
He said he knew the money was destined for the Liberal Party because they were for what Corriveau described as "the cause."
Luc Lemay, owner of Groupe Polygone, gave Corriveau sponsorship subcontracts. He told the inquiry he paid Corriveau nearly $7 million in commissions over the years for little or no work. This included organizing work at non-existent Olympic stadiums in Rimouski, Trois-Rivieres, Chicoutimi, and Sherbrooke - smaller cities that don't have Olympic Stadiums.
When Lemay was asked by an inquiry lawyer if there was an Olympic Stadium in Chicoutimi, he replied, "No, not yet."
But when Corriveau made his appearance at the inquiry he warned Gomery and the lawyers that he may not be able to recall events because of his age and the fact he takes "certain prescription drugs and that causes certain problems of memory and concentration."
And to make matters worse, Corriveau lacked any paper trail of his meetings with other ad men or sponsorship players because he was in the habit of shredding his agenda at the end of each month. And the inquiry was unable to obtain Corriveau's personal banking records because they were destroyed by his bank.
In his report, Gomery devotes an entire chapter to Corriveau and his critique is scathing and even personal.
"Mr. Corriveau presents himself to the world and to the commission as a refined and cultured man with a patrician air, interested in and supportive of the arts," Gomery wrote.
"He says that as a committed Liberal and as a matter of principle he has worked for 40 years on a gratuitous basis for the (Quebec Liberal party). It was only when the full extent of his involvement in the sponsorship program was revealed as a result of the testimony of Luc Lemay that the commission learned that Mr. Corriveau was as much motivated by an appetite for financial gain as by principle."
Gomery describes Corriveau's failure to recall events because of drugs he is taking "a convenient excuse for selective memory lapses."
Corriveau deliberately "misled" the commission and prefers to "take refuge in forgetfulness instead of telling the truth," according to Gomery.
In effect, when Corriveau's testimony conflicted with the testimony of other witnesses - even those charged with fraud, such as Chuck Guite and Brault - the judge chose not to believe Corriveau.
Gomery said there was evidence the Corriveau was "instrumental in directing cash payments to senior officers" of the Liberal party from sponsorship money.
"The source of these payments cannot be determined on the basis of direct evidence presented to the commission, but the fact of the payments is clearly established, and it may safely be assumed that they did not originate from legitimate fundraising activities by the (Liberal party), but from sums of money paid by communication agencies, which were profiting from the sponsorship program, to Mr. Corriveau or Pluri Design," Gomery concluded.
Gomery accepted the testimony of the former director of the Liberal party in Quebec, Michel Belliveau. This included:
In1997, Corriveau gave him $75,000 to $100,000 in cash stuffed in an envelope, which he later passed on to another Liberal party official, Benoit Corbeil, to be used in ridings in Quebec where the Liberals did not hold seats.
Also in 1997, Corriveau gave him $7,000 or $8,000 in cash to pay a Quebec City party volunteer for out of pocket expenses incurred in Chretien's St-Maurice riding. And $8,000 was given to Corriveau to pay a Quebec City businessman who provided services in another Quebec riding.
According to Gomery, Beliveau had "clearly established in a credible manner that Mr. Corriveau was the person to whom he … could turn for money, that Mr. Corriveau did not disappoint him when he was asked for financial assistance, and that the money received in cash came from unrecorded and improper sources."
Gomery said Beliveau's testimony was backed up by the testimony of another top Liberal organizer who testified receiving cash from Believeau.
The inquiry also tried to draw conclusions about how come Corriveau was so influential in both the Liberal party and with the ad firms receiving sponsorships.
Gomery also highlighted Guite's first meeting with Corriveau and suggests the first link between
the future "central figure" of the sponsorship scandal and the future head of the sponsorship program was through David Dingwall, the former Liberal cabinet minister, who has been under fire over the last few months in the media for his lobbying
issues and severance deal.
"Mr. Guite recalls an incident in 1994 or 1995 when he was summoned to the office of (David) Dingwall, then minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, by the latter's executive assistant, Warren Kinsella, who said Mr. Dingwall wanted Mr. Guite to meet someone," Gomery wrote.
"On arrival, Mr. Dingwall told him that he was going to meet a gentleman named Corriveau who was 'a very very close friend of the prime minister,' adding, 'if ever you find somebody in bed between Jean Chretien and his wife, it will be Jacques Corriveau,' and that Mr. Guite should 'look after him.'"
While not drawing any conclusions, Gomery says "it is interesting to wonder why Mr. Dingwall wanted Mr. Guite to 'look after' Mr. Corriveau. Whatever the reason, Mr. Guite took care to follow Mr. Dingwall's instructions."
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